Welcome to our regularly-updated hub dedicated to helping youth leaders respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
GETTING STARTED WITH VIRTUAL YOUTH WORK? TRY THESE FROM THE LIVEBLOG:
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We want to reach young people where they are - and right now, young people are at home more than ever before. If you want some ideas for how to support parents/families as they do this, or if you're a youth leader juggling youth work and homeschooling, Kitchen Table has a great list of "faith at home" resources here and some helpful advice here.
The NSPCC has shared useful guidance about how to talk to children worried about coronavirus, alongside practical ideas about dealing with isolation: how to structure a day; keeping in touch with family, and helping young people maintain a sense of control. Childline, part of the NSPCC, has also produced this coronavirus information page aimed specifically at young people.
Childline last week reported it has faced "unprecedented demand for its services" in the wake of COVID-19. More than 900 children and young people worried about coronavirus had counselling sessions with Childline between the 21st of January and 22nd March. Sessions peaked on the day (18th March) that the government confirmed UK school closures.
The NSPCC reported that "Over half of young people who spoke to Childline last week about coronavirus were counselled for their mental and emotional health around issues like isolation, arguments at home and removal of professional support from schools and the NHS."
Last week, Youthscape Luton launched a Digital Mentoring program to serve young people in Luton looking for support, you can find out about it here.
Last week we asked you some questions for the Friday 3x3– a way to take the temperature of the youth ministry community during the Coronavirus pandemic. Every Friday at 3pm we’ll ask three questions which will take you no more than three minutes to answer. We’ve started with a modest 60 responses, so this doesn’t represent the wider community of Christian youth workers – it just gives us a sense of what’s going on.
You can read the full-length breakdown and reflection here, but a brief summary is below:
1. ALL THE FEELS
We provided a list of 25 emotions and asked you to pick up to three that described how you’d been feeling last week. Of the 60 who responded, the top two emotions were ‘overwhelmed’ (38%), ‘optimistic’ (37%) and ‘thankful’ (35%).
It’s not surprising to see that people feel overwhelmed. We have been experiencing something unprecedented and have had to suddenly change our way of life. It’s encouraging to see that, despite stress, there are also feelings of gratitude. We know that thankfulness is crucial for our mental health in times like this, for those with and without faith. It’s interesting to see optimism here. Perhaps it’s the closest to ‘hopeful’, which wasn’t one of the emotions provided but has theological resonance for many of us.
We asked which tools/platforms you used to communicate with young people since Tuesday, and joint top were Instagram posts and Zoom. Again, this was a small group of respondents, so we can’t take too much from it. But the phrase ‘zoomed out’ has now appeared in our lexicon, reflecting the platform’s meteoric rise in use over the last week and a half. So maybe we can trust the results after all? You know what hadn’t been used by any of our 60 respondents? Skype. Twelve had used email, four had seen young people face-to-face (2m apart) and one had even sent a letter. But no one had used Skype. Farewell, Skype.
3. ONLY CONNECT
Our third question was ‘In your own words, what have young people needed from you this week?’
The most frequent answer was connection. Some kind of contact, check-in, acknowledgment or presence in a crazy week. One person said, “knowing someone is thinking of them.” After that were a number of references to fun. This meant the chance to laugh, celebrate a birthday or engage in “usual banter". Some expressed this as entertainment and others as joy. The third most reported need was for reassurance – that it will be ok, that we are still there or that “it's okay to feel a mixture of emotions in these unusual times”.
Thanks to those who took part! If you missed it why not join us next time – see you Friday at 3pm?
Youth leaders - needing a bit of inspiration before you try and inspire the young people you work with? Check out the Limitless Leadership Podcast - designed to help youth leaders grow and be challenged in their faith.
Our friends over at Intro Outro have an excellent, youth-facing YouTube channel that you could point young people towards. Their latest video features the highly practical "24 things to do in isolation". Check it out below!
The second version of our online safeguarding guidance document, developed in partnership with independent safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight, is now available to download here or in the adjacent link. The new edition includes a number of updates and revisions, including an expanded list of risks to consider, some notes on special considerations for looked-after children, and clearer guidance on how to approach different kinds of online youth work interactions safely.
The new version also includes a flowchart diagram to help you to respond appropriately to an online safety incident, including signposting to the correct services for various issues. If you're working with young people in an online context we strongly recommend that you download and read this FREE resource, and consider sharing with other members of your youth work team. Remember - this is not a safeguarding policy, but it should enable you to develop one for your work, in liaison with your safeguarding lead.
A downloadable PDF of new guidance for communicating and working safely with young people online.
We are hugely grateful to the team at thirtyone:eight for their continued hard work and partnership on this vital resource. You can also find the document on thirtyone:eight’s website, which includes a range of other useful tools and materials.
We’re creating a special series of the Youthscape podcast, which will continue to appear at semi-regular intervals during the current global crisis.
The fourth and latest edition has just gone live; in it Martin Saunders talks to Kenda Creasy Dean from Princeton Theological Seminary about looking for signs of God's grace even as we wrestle with the grief of this pandemic.
The rapid rise in popularity of online video chat interface Zoom has brought with it a brand new and somewhat malevolent phenomenon. The practice of ‘Zoom-bombing’ sees people joining online chats and seeking to disrupt them by sharing explicit or unpleasant images, video and audio to the conversation. Once inside, the perpetrators are skilled at using multiple accounts to avoid being thrown off the call - meaning they’re quickly able to throw a video chat into chaos.
In order to prevent this from happening to a call, Zoom themselves have suggested a short list of steps you can take. You can find their response article here, but in brief summary:
- You should avoid listing zoom links (Personal Meeting IDs) in public, and never allow screen sharing as a standard default for all users.
- Familiarise yourself with the ways in which you’re able to manage participants as host (including muting individuals and locking the meeting), and make use of the ‘Waiting Room’ feature.
- You might also want to consider password-protecting any Zoom meetings which aren’t open to the public as a standard good practice measure.
Many churches and youth groups are making use of Zoom in a variety of ways, and the likelihood is that as more people hear about this rather innovative method of online trolling, more cases of ‘Zoom-bombing’ are unfortunately likely to occur. It’s therefore important to take steps where possible to protect against an attack of this sort, which could otherwise lead to the unleashing of pornographic or other harmful material in the middle of a session.
3 MINUTES, 3 QUESTIONS, EVERY FRIDAY AT 3 O'CLOCK
We are scattered, physically distanced and isolated. Yet we’re going through similar experiences in a way that is entirely new. We have never done this before, and everyone is improvising. We thought it might be important to capture some of what this glorious community is doing, thinking and feeling during an entirely new experience.
But things are changing so rapidly we didn’t want to just ask once.
So we’re going to take a moment at the end of each working week, to ask you a few short questions about what is going on for you. It will be super quick – three minutes at most – and it will only ever be three questions. We’ll try to get a sense of what is important to reflect on or capture each week, but the questions will always focus on what it means to be a Christian youth worker during the Coronavirus pandemic. We will ask about you, youth ministry and young people.
Every Monday we’ll share what we found on the blog. We hope it will give you some insight about what is happening across the youth ministry community, but also help you feel connected to that community.
We are keen to know what you would ask, so please do email us with suggested questions, or let us know on social media.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Your answers are anonymous, and you can read the results every Monday at our Coronavirus liveblog. The questions will be open from 3pm on a Friday to 3pm on a Sunday and you can answer at any point during those 48 hours.
Your answers will be used to write blog posts and may be used to produce a report on youth ministry during the Coronavirus pandemic. All answers will be stored securely and destroyed after 12 months.
The Coronavirus and its ensuing chaos have changed all the rules: youth leaders are suddenly having to think fast about how to creatively respond in a way that serves young people in challenging new conditions. In this new blog post Lahna Pottle explores how to innovate with a practical resource you might already have.
"I sit in my kitchen, as many youth workers I suspect now are, overwhelmed, confused and feeling like all my plans have slipped through my fingertips and smashed on the kitchen floor. I’m having to completely rethink how I do youth ministry, what my week looks like, and I have so much to do to try and turn this around..."
The Archbishop of York Youth Trust has produced a set of activities and resources for young people, particularly aimed at developing young leaders. You can download them all for free here.
Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft, two of the key leaders from Soul Survivor Watford (and the long-running Soul Survivor festival which ended last Summer), are producing daily Biblical reflection and encouragement videos for teenagers. The first two are already online on the Soul Survivor YouTube channel here, and further episodes will appear each day. You can also find them on Spotify.
You could share these with young people as a regular bit of good quality input during the current period of social isolation, either by sharing the video each day or pointing groups to the channel.
The Youthscape team have been working hard to create new tools and resources to support youth leaders in response to the recent period of massive and rapid cultural change. Here’s a brand new one, hot off the press. ‘Together Apart’ is a short series of curriculum resources enabling you to explore life and faith with young people, and is designed specifically for use in the context of an online youth work session. And it’s absolutely FREE!
Each session includes a short programme around a theme, along with copious notes on everything that a youth leader might need to consider when running the session online. We’re not claiming that this is a revolutionary new youth work model - but we hope that it will prove really useful in the immediate context in which we find ourselves.
The first two sessions, written by Youthscape’s Hannah Bradley, can be downloaded below. Session one looks at the subject of trusting in God, and the second resource explores how Jesus changes lives. Another four sessions will follow in the next couple of weeks. We hope to bring you more innovative resources very soon - but for now, we hope these are useful, and as always we welcome your feedback!
Scouts have pulled together a list of over 100 indoors activities you can do with young people, whether that's for your youth group or for your own families. Each activity has its own page, with a list of materials needed, recommended age range, time frame, and a reflection tying it all together at the end.
The Anglican Diocese of Ely’s youth team have created a risk assessment template specifically for use in online communication with young people. The document includes a helpful summary of government guidance around the risks of communicating through social media and interactive services, and then offers a thorough list of potential hazards and responses. It already offers a fairly comprehensive list of risks, but can be easily adapted to add others as they emerge. You can download the resource directly via the adjacent link, but be sure to visit the special section of the Ely Diocese website to find a host of other useful tools and documents, here.
On this theme, CofE Youth Officer Simon Hill (currently undertaking a Research MTh with Youthscape and LST), has produced an excellent guide to safe video conferencing with young people. You can find it here.
A risk assessment template specifically for use in online communication with young people.
How can you support young people without face-to-face interaction? How can you help them look after their wellbeing, and deal with challenging circumstances, without meeting together? Youthscape Luton has developed a new program that will provide online mentoring services to young people who want it. Young people can easily sign up for Digital Mentoring through this page, and with parental consent secured, they can check in for 20-minute video call sessions (once or twice a week) with a youth leader to talk about anything they want to. This is one of our local, Luton-based projects. Sadly we can't offer this service on a national scale, but we thought it might encourage you as you rethink familiar youth work models, and try to imagine what meeting the needs of young people looks like when all the rules have changed.
Could you attempt something similar where you are? Perhaps you've started already – if you've got a story you'd like to share of something you're trying out, don't hesitate to let us know!
A few different youth organisations, including the National Youth Agency, The Mix and UK Youth have collaborated to create an excellent page of resources for young people and youth workers. There are links to webinars, downloadable resources and some helpful links regarding vulnerable young people.
Dreaming the Impossible (run by Vineyard Churches) have put together a great downloadable digital resource. It includes an overview of Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok. They also talk about what digital discipleship looks like now.
The NHS has issued a call for volunteers, from driving patients home after they've recovered, to taking food/medical supplies to the vulnerable, to checking in/calling lonely people. So far, over 250,000 people have signed up to volunteer. It's only for people aged over 18, so only the older youth in your group could get involved. But it might be a positive thing to get young people talking about: how can they seek to support the vulnerable people they know? Prayers, a phone call, a card or letter?
If you’re looking for resources to send to young people, you might want to point approximately half of them to a new video/audio podcast from Youthscape’s Martin Saunders. Based on his recent book The Man You’re Made to Be, this eponymous new series is an attempt to make the book’s content accessible to a wider range of young men, including those who struggle with reading. New episodes are released each Friday on Spotify and Apple podcasts, and a video version is available on YouTube. The first instalment is now available below.